President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee to helm the department of labor has been linked to allegations of union extortion over the past decade.
Earlier this month, Biden announced that he had chosen Boston Mayor Marty Walsh as secretary of labor. Walsh, a former president of his city’s building and construction trades council, was considered a favorite of top labor leaders like AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka for the role. The mayor’s personal ties to Biden, who spoke at his 2017 city inaugural, also likely helped him clinch the post.
“He’s a friend and knows Joe: They’ve worked together on numerous occasions,” Trumka told Politico last year. “They have the relationship I think is necessary.”
Despite his ties to both Biden and labor leaders, Walsh’s links to allegations of strong-arm union tactics and extortion could upend his nomination.
In August 2019, two high profile members of the mayor’s administration were convicted for allegedly violating federal law, according to Breitbart. Timothy Sullivan, Walsh’s former director of intergovernmental affairs, and Kenneth Brissette, the onetime head of Boston’s office of tourism, sports, and entertainment, were accused of conspiracy and extortion relating to a planned 2014 music festival.
According to court documents, Sullivan and Brissette allegedly extorted a music festival production company between June and September 2014. At the time, the firm was awaiting the issuance of city permits required to host its event. The company was also seeking an agreement from Walsh’s administration to use the city-owned property for other events in the coming years.
Throughout the process, the company claims, Brissette and Sullivan repeatedly urged the hiring of union labor to work the event, most notably individual associated with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 11. The union, which has longstanding ties to Boston Democrats, had previously attempted to obtain a contract with the production company, but had been turned down in favor of another, non-union vendor.
When the company refused to hire members of Local 11, it claims that Brissette and Sullivan orchestrated the delay of the city permits required to host its event. Three days before the festival was supposed to begin, Brissette and Sullivan again demanded that at least half of the production company’s event staff be union members. The company relented, hiring nine staffers from Local 11 to work the event. The decision, it claims, resulted from mounting financial pressure associated with the event and also fears that Brissette and Sullivan would prevent the firm from hosting future events on city property.
After reports of the alleged extortion became well known, the Trump-era Department of Justice pursued charges against both Brissette and Sullivan, resulting in their conviction by a federal court in 2019.
President-elect Joe Biden said he considered nominating Senator Bernie Sanders as his labor secretary but both agreed it was important to maintain control of the Senate. Biden instead nominated Boston Mayor Marty Walsh for the post https://t.co/yYpBGJGH0P pic.twitter.com/P5iZJ3wcrU
— Reuters (@Reuters) January 8, 2021
In February 2020, the convictions were overturned by an Obama-appointed federal judge, who claimed that “neither Brissette nor Sullivan” personally benefited from the alleged extortion.
“Since becoming mayor of Boston, I have changed the development process to be more open and inclusive,” the mayor added.
It is unclear if Biden knew about the allegations involving Sullivan and Brissette, as well as Walsh’s own conduct when deciding to appoint him secretary of labor. The president-elect’s transition team did not return requests for comment from Breitbart on this story.